It’s difficult to enjoy reading Faulkner. It’s not that the words aren’t beautiful, or that the story doesn’t have that ring of truth binding it to the reader’s life. It’s just that Faulkner’s really hard to read. His narrators are unreliable, his sentence structures are uniformly insane, and his characters overwhelm. Who what where how why are all unclear.
But the words are just so beautiful. There’s an aching truth in Faulkner’s prose. Reading a Faulkner novel is a bit like what watching a suicide must be like: seeing characters slitting the wrists of their souls. Faulkner’s characters expose themselves on the page, tear their own hearts out and poke at them, tear one another’s hearts out and beg for help, for some ability to understand.
That said, “The Sound and the Fury” isn’t his best. I know it’s the one that makes all the lists, but really Faulkner can do better.
Sound and Fury is about how individuals live in the context of one another. It’s not about the tides of history, like “Absalom, Absalom,” or dealing with death, like “As I Lay Dying.” It’s about how lives intersect and ricochet off one another. It’s about the things love does to us and makes us do.
Faulkner once said that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart at war with itself. And no one could ever spill out the innards of a human heart quite like Faulkner.
But much as I love Faulkner, no one can dispute the truth in this cartoon: